Lawyers tell paparazzi to stay away from the Queen

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The Independent Online
The royal backlash against the media increased last night when Buckingham Palace revealed its lawyers had written to four photographers asking them not to "infringe the privacy" of the Royal Family on their summer holiday in Balmoral.

A spokeswoman said the Queen and her family were entitled to privacy on their holiday, which starts today, and added: "This is something we have been considering for a long time. What we have had over a number of years is photographers with long lenses who have used the public access roads to take photos of the Royal Family when they are enjoying private time and on their own property."

The photographers, who have not been named, have been asked to reply. The Palace also hinted strongly that it will consider legal action against them if they fail to comply with the requests. But the spokeswoman said the letters, sent two weeks ago, were unconnected to the injunction gained from the High Court in London on Wednesday night by the Princess of Wales against a freelance photographer, Martin Stenning.

The order bans Mr Stenning, who has himself consulted lawyers, from approaching within 300 metres of Princess Diana and from communicating with her, harassing her or interfering with her safety, security or well- being or behaving in any way which has the effect of disrupting her life.

But does it signify a new attack on press freedom, of the kind potentially raised by the planned law on stalking? And could this be the beginning of a concerted counter-attack on the paparazzi by a princess in search of a new identity?

It is too soon to say. As the supporting affidavit sworn by the Princess and reproduced in full in yesterday's Sun newspaper shows, the claim was not simply about irritation, but fear.

Ken Lennox, the Sun's picture editor, said he was con-cerned that stalking legislation could hamper photographers' coverage of stories of genuine interest, but added: "This case may be unique. [She] said he frightened her. I have never heard her say that before."

The 36-year-old photographer's habit of waiting near the entrance to Kensington Palace then trailing the Princess on his motorbike amounted to stalking, she alleged, after a series of incidents including smashing into her car, pushing her, shouting abuse and spoiling outings with her sons. Last Friday she snatched his camera bag, motorcycle helmet and keys.

She swore in the affidavit: "I can no longer drive out of the gates of Kensington Palace without fearing what the defendant might do to me next."

But the fact remains that anyone who claims a photographer is a "stalker" must prove it.